By Marlene Houk
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 13:14a
My black taffeta silk skirt swished importantly as I ascended the stage to receive my first-place award. Later, the mom of a four-year-old informed me that her daughter had requested a princess dress just like mine.
We revel in the cozy warmth of a fleecy robe or the bling of a rhinestone blouse. But clothes also influence our thoughts and decisions. What we wear may affect our (and others’) higher-order thinking skills.
Psychological scientists from California State University, Northridge, and Columbia University conducted a series of five experiments. Their conclusion states: “‘Specifically, as formal clothing is associated with enhanced social distance, we propose that wearing formal clothing will enhance abstract cognitive processing,’ the researchers write in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.”
Abstract cognitive processing, the phrase mentioned in the article, is a higher-order thinking skill. This ability helps us to receive, process, store, and use information. We understand ideas such as freedom or insecurity, but they are not concrete objects. Higher-order reasoning skill helps us to refocus, understand complex ideas, analyze events, and solve problems.
I’m reminded of Queen Esther’s story in the Bible. Royal robes against the backdrop of sumptuous parties in a luxurious palace offer a stunning stage for the drama. Blue, green, purple, and gold blend the swirls of fear and evil into a brilliant testimony of God’s power as He rescues the Jews from ethnic cleansing through Esther.
Did God subtly prepare the Jews to use higher-order thinking skills? When they saw Mordecai in the king’s robes and golden crown during his parade around the city, their mouths hung open in astonishment. Their abstract cognitive processing would have been enabled, and higher-order thinking skills (listed above) activated. Specifically, they could analyze Haman’s evil plan, put it into perspective, and work together to solve their crisis.
They obeyed Mordecai as he later rallied them from deep despair to fast for Esther. God helped the Jews by influencing their thinking through the clothes that Mordecai wore. He empowered them to help destroy Haman’s plan of ethnic cleansing.
Clothes in the book of Esther reign with confidence and aplomb. Queen Esther appears before the king in her royal apparel. Just before her audience with the king, her cousin Mordecai suddenly uses sackcloth, clothing that echoes despair, which alarms Esther and motivates her appearance before the king. After the crisis is over, Mordecai wears royal apparel of blue and white, and purple. Experts and research in the psychology of color reveal that people tend to associate blue and white with intelligence, trust, efficiency, and tranquility, calmness, and poise, and purple with sophistication and wealth. The Lord painlessly enhanced the Jews’ abstract cognitive processing by showing them Mordecai in the king’s splendid clothing. They were ready to help Esther save them.
The opulence of an imperial and world-powerful court offers the perfect backdrop for Esther’s message to us. She teaches us to dress ourselves in royal apparel when we face our own weaknesses, the world, and our enemy every morning.
- Slip on the “robe of righteousness” bequeathed to you in Isaiah 61:10.
- Wear the “garment of praise” found in Isaiah 61:3.
- Don’t forget to slip on “kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” hanging in Colossians 3:12.
- Add to your beauty “a gentle and quiet spirit” as described in 1 Peter 3:4.
- Display the beauty of the Lord by donning the noble uniform of honor found in the wardrobe of Proverbs 31:25.
- And, if your day is a spiritual workday, cover yourself with the imperial armor of God located in a special section called Ephesians 6:11-18.
Diagonal ruffles floated in dramatic swirls around my black formal silk skirt as I returned to my seat after winning first place for my Bible study. But I was more familiar with the work clothes of obedience. Long hours with my laptop in the presence of the Lord, searching for the right words, and researching Bible women taught me the value of spiritual work clothes. But the pleasure of wearing God’s glorious garments found in my spiritual wardrobe lasts for eternity.
Marlene is an author and teacher of Bible studies. She may be reached at Bible167@gmail.com
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